Strengthening Japan – ASEAN Relations

Posted in: Lead Articles Started by

Strengthening Japan – ASEAN Relations

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong 1

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

The vision of ASEAN’s founding members: the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, continues to drive growth across the Asian region. Established in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) mission is to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development throughout the association’s member countries. The geopolitical and economic organization today includes Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos and regional economic integration is expected by 2015. ASEAN’s combined nominal Gross Domestic Product (GPD) has grown to more than US$ 2 trillion and as a single entity, ASEAN ranks as the eighth largest economy in the world.

Identifying strong regional economic growth, Japan established relations with ASEAN in 1973 and over the last forty years, strong ties have been established across a variety of areas.
40th Anniversary logo

40th Anniversary logo

“This year marks the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation and provides an excellent opportunity to further develop bilateral relations with each ASEAN member state”, states a Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson. “Based on this recognition, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia in January, immediately after taking office as Prime Minister. He then visited Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Japan will host the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in Tokyo in December where leaders are expected to discuss a medium-to-long term vision to strengthen ASEAN-Japan relations. Japan hopes that the Summit will lend momentum to strengthen and expand ASEAN-Japan relations”.
Today, Japan is ASEAN’s second largest trading partner and the regions second largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI). Japanese investment and collaboration can be found throughout Southeast Asia. In Singapore, over one thousand Japanese companies have been established, with most functioning as regional headquarters.
The Japan-Singapore New Age Economic Partnership Agreement (JSEPA), established in 2002, was Japan’s first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and Singapore’s first FTA with a major trading partner.

“Our close partnership is underpinned by mutual respect, common interests and a win-win approach to cooperation in various spheres of interaction”, says Chin Siat Yoon, Singapore’s Ambassador to Japan. “Our partnership is continuously nurtured by frequent bilateral exchanges at the highest political level. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made an official visit to Japan in May this year and shortly after, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Singapore where he delivered the 33rd Singapore Lecture on Abenomics”.

Japan remains one of Singapore’s most important economic partners – each country is the other’s third largest investor. Japanese investment into Singapore in 2011 reached S$52 billion while in the same year, Singaporean investment into Japan amounted to S$15.2 billion.

Chin Siat Yoon, Singapore Ambassador to Japan

Chin Siat Yoon, Singapore Ambassador to Japan

Shomei Yokouchi, Governor of Yamanashi

Shomei Yokouchi, Governor of Yamanashi

“We have always been a strong advocate for Japan’s robust economic engagement with ASEAN countries”, says Chin. “The ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) has led to increased trade and investment between Japan and ASEAN. Since the AJCEP was agreed in December 2008, total trade between ASEAN and Japan has risen at a yearly average of eighteen percent between 2008 and 2012. This figure is significantly higher than the yearly average rate of eleven percent for the seven preceding years. We strongly welcome Japan’s support of ASEAN’s integration and community building efforts. Since the establishment of the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF) in 2006, more than US$400 million (about S$507 million) has been pledged to assist in these efforts”.
The future of Japan-ASEAN relations will depend on the next generation. The ‘Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (JENESYS) 2.0’ has supported exchange opportunities between Japan and ASEAN for 10,000 young people.

As a tourist destination, Japan remains a country of beauty and intrigue for visitors from Asia and the rest of the world.

“Mount Fuji has recently been made a UNESCO World Heritage site and we want to welcome visitors from Southeast Asia, including Singapore”, says Shomei Yokouchi, Governor of Yamanashi Prefecture. “We encourage visitors to experience our community spirit. With the relaxed tourist visa restrictions put in place since 1st July, it is even easier to visit Japan. Yamanashi Prefecture can be easily accessed from Haneda and Narita and international flights have increased dramatically. We want to encourage deeper exchanges between ASEAN countries and Japan in line with the 40th anniversary celebrations this year”.

Featured Videos